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Mercatus, the e-commerce service provider, has a fascinating podcast that features an interview with Barclays Investment Bank’s Karen Short, who recently authored a report entitled “Dissecting the Instacart Addiction” in which she looked at the impact that Instacart is having - and is likely to have in the future - on its retail clients.

Spoiler alert: Short agrees with many of my criticisms of the Instacart business model and the ways in which it can disintermediate the retailer from its shoppers.

Now, let’s be clear - Mercatus has a dog in this hunt. It competes with Instacart, and so it benefits from retailers casting a more jaundiced eye on the companies with which they do business.

But as Short says on the podcast, “It just seemed to me as I observe all the differences in terms of the strategies all these retailers are taking in terms of how they use Instacart, that A, the power is building with Instacart as opposed to the retailers. But as Instacart continues to develop stronger and stronger relationships with customer, the customer starts thinking of Instacart as their provider, not the actual food retailer, and that becomes a very dangerous situation to be in, in my view, if you’re a food retailer, especially food retailer with limited differentiation.”

And yet, retailers keep signing up … just this week, the Cincinnati Business Courier reported, Kroger-owned Food 4 Less announced that it would offer “home delivery service in conjunction with Instacart at all 129 of its locations in California, Illinois and Indiana.”

Short argues that retailers seem to be addicted to the short-term e-commerce fix that Instacart offers them, while not considering the long-term implications of what this addiction could mean to their businesses.

I think the podcast is totally worth listening to - there’s a ton of research and provocative analysis, and Short has a compelling story to tell. Here’s the deal … if you don’t have time to listen to it, there’s also a text version you can read.

You can check it out here.
KC's View: